Архів позначки: Euromaidan

Business Titans Too Rich to Bribe Seek to Ease Fears in East Ukraine

Two months ago, Hennadiy Korban, a millionaire businessman, fled to Israel to escape retribution for siding with opponents of Ukraine’s president, Viktor F. Yanukovych. After Mr. Yanukovych’s ouster, he flew home in triumph aboard a private plane to begin a new life — as a harried civil servant.

Mr. Korban, 44, now works 14 hours a day in a drab Soviet-era office block here for a meager salary that he does not bother to take. Business, he said, was more enjoyable and far less stressful than trying to keep Ukraine together.

Boris Filatov, whose day job was in luxury shopping malls and other ventures, is now a deputy governor in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine. Credit Mauricio Lima for The New York Times
Boris Filatov, whose day job was in luxury shopping malls and other ventures, is now a deputy governor in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine. Credit Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

But since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March, and with tens of thousands of Russian troops now massed on Ukraine’s border, to the east of this sprawling industrial city, men like Mr. Korban have become part of a frantic, all-hands-on-deck struggle against President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

Unable to throw money at the many problems besieging Ukraine’s bitterly divided east, the fragile and nearly bankrupt government in Kiev, the capital, has instead thrown rich people into a drive to convince the country’s Russian-speaking regions that their future lies not with Russia, but with Ukraine.

A toppled Lenin monument in central Dnipropetrovsk became a memorial for protesters who died during clashes with the police. Credit Mauricio Lima for The New York Times
A toppled Lenin monument in central Dnipropetrovsk became a memorial for protesters who died during clashes with the police. Credit Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

Mr. Korban’s boss is Ihor Kolomoysky, who was recently appointed governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region by officials in Kiev. Mr. Kolomoysky, a billionaire involved in banking, oil, metals and the media, ranks as the second- or third-wealthiest man in Ukraine, depending on who is counting. He said he has not counted his fortune himself, noting that “a real rich person is someone who does not know how much he has.”

Another of Mr. Kolomoysky’s deputies is Boris Filatov, Mr. Korban’s business partner in luxury shopping malls and other ventures.

Sergei Taruta, a metals magnate worth billions of dollars, is now in charge of the neighboring eastern region of Donetsk. He is trying to reassert Ukrainian authority there after a short-lived pro-Russian putsch led by a self-declared “people’s governor” who is now in jail.

Mr. Taruta, in an interview late last month, dismissed the attempt to seize power as “absurd theater,” suggesting that the script had been written by Moscow and performed by Russians masquerading as locals. On Sunday, however, pro-Russia activists staged a repeat performance, again seizing the Donetsk regional administration building where Mr. Taruta has his office and waving Russian flags from its windows.

The naming of wealthy businessmen to positions of power marks a curious twist in the Ukrainian revolution, which was driven in a large part by public fury at the extensive wealth of a tiny group of plutocrats who prospered under Mr. Yanukovych and, with a few exceptions, stayed on the sidelines throughout three months of protests against him.

Mr. Kolomoysky, who was mostly outside the country during the protests, said he came up with the idea not as a way to entrench himself and other businessmen in power, but as an emergency response to the fears of Russian speakers in the east, terrified by a revolution they saw as dominated by Ukrainian nationalists from the west.

The new governor of Dnipropetrovsk, Ihor Kolomoysky, is one of Ukraine’s wealthiest men. Credit Mauricio Lima for The New York Times
The new governor of Dnipropetrovsk, Ihor Kolomoysky, is one of Ukraine’s wealthiest men. Credit Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

“This is a signal to society,” Mr. Kolomoysky said. “If oligarchs are in power, feel at ease and view their future as being in Ukraine, then ordinary people will feel even more that they are not under threat.” He conceded, however, that average people “might not respect oligarchs or like them.”

But after being bombarded with Russian claims that fascists had seized power, he said, people in the east were heartened to see a move into government by multimillionaires with no interest in extremist turmoil or a neo-Nazi revival, “particularly when they are of Jewish origin.”

Mr. Kolomoysky, a Russian-speaking citizen of both Israel and Ukraine, lived until recently in Switzerland, where his wife and son still live. Mr. Kolomoysky and his deputy, Mr. Korban, are both Jewish.

Mr. Filatov describes himself as “100 percent Russian without a drop of Ukrainian blood.” He, too, fled to Israel in late January.

“Aside for a few marginals, nobody here is going to throw any flowers at Russian tanks,” Mr. Filatov said. He recently persuaded more than 20 local groups, including several pro-Russia outfits that had cheered Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, to sign a declaration in support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and against Russian aggression.

Pavlo Khazan, a pro-democracy activist here who helped organize a series of rallies against Mr. Yanukovych, said many ordinary people distrusted rich people, including the governor, as a matter of principle. But they realize, he said, “that at this pivotal moment we need a strong guy for the region” who knows how to manage effectively and “doesn’t need to take bribes.”

Hennadiy Korban, left, a multimillionaire and new deputy governor, with Mr. Filatov, center, and Vadim Shabanov, right, in the regional administrative building. Credit Mauricio Lima for The New York Times
Hennadiy Korban, left, a multimillionaire and new deputy governor, with Mr. Filatov, center, and Vadim Shabanov, right, in the regional administrative building. Credit Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

While Ukraine’s fractious national government in Kiev has been severely rattled by Russia’s seizure of Crimea and its ominous military maneuvers, the Dnipropetrovsk region has moved swiftly to form its own regional defense council, set up reserve command centers stocked with food and water, and devise detailed plans for what officials, police officers, firefighters and other public servants must do in the event of an invasion.

“While they are arguing in Kiev,” Mr. Korban said, “we are preparing for action.”

The ground floor of the regional administration building has been turned over rent-free to a citizens’ defense organization headed by Yuri Bereza, a retired soldier who fought in Afghanistan for the Soviet Army. His group has signed up more than 7,000 volunteers, aged 16 to 78, ready to fight if Russia invades.

The new governor, Mr. Kolomoysky, has dipped into his own pockets to buy $5 million worth of diesel oil, aviation fuel and batteries for Ukraine’s underfunded and ill-equipped military. The gesture impressed Ukrainians more accustomed to officials stealing from them.

Mr. Korban said he had assured employees of the regional administration that no one would be fired for having supported the previous government, or even for past instances of petty corruption, because “they had to work within the system that existed.” If everyone who ever gave or took a bribe were punished, “we would have to put half the country in jail,” he added. “This is a tolerant revolution, a soft revolution.”

All the same, the new regional leaders have reduced the number of government employees by 10 percent, mostly by cutting people who drew salaries but rarely, if ever, showed up for work — and they plan to trim even more. Mr. Korban insisted that he was motivated not by political vengeance but by a determination to apply the logic of business management to government service.

Some opponents of Ukraine’s former leaders complain that the new government has not gone far enough, and question the motives of Mr. Kolomoysky, who until his appointment in early March spent most of his time abroad and did not publicly challenge Mr. Yanukovych. But a Ukrainian television channel he owns often featured reports favorable to protesters, a stance that drew repeated complaints from the president’s camp and irritated phone calls from Mr. Yanukovych himself.

“We need to change not only people but the whole corrupt system,” said Viktor Oryol, a leader of the local branch of a nationalist group known as Right Sector, which has clashed with the authorities in Kiev over what it sees as the slow pace of change. Mr. Oryol acknowledged that Mr. Kolomoysky had used his own money to help the military but suggested that he had done so only to ensure that an energy company he partly owns won a contract to supply the armed forces with fuel.

Mr. Kolomoysky denied this and said the fuel contract was far from a juicy business deal: It represents a steep discount to market prices and allows the military to take delivery of the fuel without any payment upfront.

The Kremlin has helped fan suspicions of ulterior motives with a steady stream of mostly fanciful reports in Russia’s state-controlled news channels — widely watched here until March 12, when they were ordered off the air — that claimed the new leaders of Dnipropetrovsk were lining their pockets, persecuting ethnic Russians and driving the region to starvation.

As well as waging a propaganda war, Moscow has also sought to undermine Ukraine’s post-Yanukovych order by squeezing the country economically. It has closed its market to a wide variety of Ukrainian goods, including rockets manufactured by Dnipropetrovsk’s flagship company, Uzhmash. With no orders from Russia, Uzhmash has struggled to pay its electricity bills and the salaries of its 10,000 employees.

To calm worries that they moved into government service only to plunder public funds, the Dnipropetrovsk moguls have all agreed to forgo the salaries, cars and bodyguards that come with their jobs.

Mr. Taruta, the new governor of Donetsk, is also working pro bono and, before pro-Russia activists again stormed his government offices on Sunday, had looked forward to a calming of tensions and an eventual return to his previous career in business. Of his job in government, “I did not want it, did not expect it and would never have accepted it if it had not been proposed by such a high level,” he said, referring to the new leadership in Kiev. His family members, he added, were “all against this. They understood the risk.”


The New York Times

Green Party of Moldova concerning the Situation in Ukraine

Adolf Putin – Stop the War!

Ecological Green Party like all the civil society of the Republic of Moldova oriented towards the European values of democracy expresses deep concern towards the latest developments in Ukraine. As well, the Ecological Green Party concerns about the negative consequences that will be generated at the regional and continental level, through the irresponsible continuation, by the authorities in Moscow today, of the same expansionist policies pursed by the tsarist and soviet imperialism.

Basically, by the military involvement in the internal affairs of Ukraine, Russia has shown that it remains the last barbarian empire in a world of dialogue and its policy is based only on manipulating a population marked by frustrations of a chauvinist and imperialist ideology that has been cultivated in the period of several centuries.

In this respect, EGP makes a serious warning about the typical fascist behavior adopted by the actual Kremlin authorities, led by Vladimir Putin, the artisan of the recent Crimean diversions, clearly meant only to justify the aggression against a sovereign and independent state.

The dramatic episode that is consumed now in Ukraine serves as a proof that the previous lessons of history have not be learned by the Kremlin, because Russian communism was not punished by the Nuremberg tribunal for the millions of innocent victims that it has made. It is appropriate to recall that in 1939, the fascist Germany applied the same tactic of occupying the own border post by the German soldiers, only they were dressed in Polish uniforms to justify aggression against Poland. Just like in Crimea today, the Russian soldiers without insignia occupied Parliament and the airport.

More recently, 22 years ago, on March 2nd, 1992, Moldova along with several other former soviet republics was admitted in UNO. “Coincidentally” at the same time, Russia triggered the military aggression of the Moldova territorial disintegration by Transnistria War. Just as it has done now, initiating a new conflict when the Ukraine announced its European path continuation.

What happened in Moldova in 1992 and in Georgia in 2008, what is happening now in Ukraine, represents the effect over decades of the Stalin designed policy, creating artificial pro- Russian States, by transfer of territory and populations regardless the identity or national history.

The sole purpose was to seed the discord and disunity in the event of future manifestations of the will to independence. For the Ukraine, that future has now come, but Putin reaps the fruits of the Stalin seeds. With a typical imperial nerve, the Kremlin new Adolf accuses the Ukrainian pro Europeans of fascism, pretending to forget that his predecessor, Iosif Stalin practiced a 100% fascist policy, going hand in hand with Hitler to occupy Europe and only greed separated them, in no case ideological differences.

Clearly, Russia does nothing more than to continue the Tsarist Empire policy of annexation and the enmity of the nations found in the view of its expansionist ambitions. Justification of aggression by invoking an alleged obligation to defend Russian citizens in Ukraine is cynical and defiant against the recent history realities. It is notoriously known in Ukraine, as well as in Moldova and other former soviet republics that these ethnic enclaves were created artificially by transferring Russian- speaking population- not always Russian!- to the territories, which had to be controlled for the exclusive benefit of Moscow. Russian- speaking population has been established here from the very beginning in the position of domination and control by offensive limiting to the indigenous people the rights to manage their own territory and to have access to their own language and culture. In this context, we qualify the recent reaction of the power from Kiev to imitate the former ”master” and to repeal the Law on indigenous people languages functioning totally contrary to the European norms on the rights of ethnic minorities. One cannot approach Europe free, decreasing the freedom of other ethnicities.

What is happening now in Ukraine shows that if a country and the world community do not immediately react to the threat of Russian politics of interference and ethnic strife, it will extend destructively throughout the area. And it is not the only danger! The possible Russian –Ukraine War, in the addition to the thousand of sacrifices will mean a huge ecological disaster by loss of control on chemical and bacteriological ammunition depots and on nuclear and hydroelectric power centrals that will lead to the immediately and long term inevitable pollution of huge territories and Black Sea.

In order to prevent the actions that may lead to further destabilization of the situation in the region, the Ecological Green Party urges to use all international mechanisms to solve the crises through diplomatic ways only.

No military aggression!

No fascist policies and soviet imperialism!

No Adolf Putin!

Update of the situation in Ukraine (February, 27 – March, 3)

February 27

Russian-speaking armed people wearing masks and no identifiable marks on their uniforms took up positions around a coast guard base and two airports in the Crimean peninsula strategically located on the Black Sea.

Earlier, unidentified armed people entered the Crimean parliament in the regional Crimean centre Simferopol by force on morning, and hoisted a Russian flag on the roof.

The Crimean parliament later announced it would hold a referendum on expanding the region’s autonomy on 25 May.

Ukraine’s new authority called the seizure of the buildings an invasion of the country by Russia. The foreign ministry protested that Russia had violated its airspace and broken the terms of the lease on its Black Sea navy base in the Crimean port of Sevastopol.

28 February

Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has held his first press-conference since leaving the country in the southern Russian city Rostov-on-Don.

He said he was “not overthrown”, but was compelled to leave Ukraine after threats to his life. Mr Yanukovych also insisted that he is the legitimate president of Ukraine and would continue to fight for his country.

The Ukrainian border guard service said that more than 10 Russian military helicopters flew from Russia into Ukrainian airspace over the Crimea region.

Mobile, landline and Internet access has been cut off in parts of the Crimea region, according to a statement from Ukrtelecom, the Ukrainian National Telecommunications operator.

1 March

Acting president Oleksandr Turchynov said the Ukrainian military would not be baited. He called on Russian president Vladimir Putin to “stop provocations.”

The U.N. Security Council, including Russia, held private consultations on the crisis with no publicized result.

Russia’s upper house of parliament has approved President Vladimir Putin’s request for Russian forces to be used in Ukraine. He had asked that Russian forces be used “until the normalisation of the political situation in the country”.

Pro-Russian demonstrations raised the Russian flag Saturday over Kharkiv city hall after a demonstration turned violent. Russia supporters clashed with backers of the Ukrainian government who were guarding the building. Government supporters were left beaten and bloodied. Ukrainian and television news wires reported pro-Russians demonstrations in Donetsk and Odessa.

Pro-Russian demonstrators removed the Ukrainian national flag from remains of Lenins monument an the Geroiv Maydana Square and destroyed hand maid memorial of Maydan victims. Several journalists have been beaten by these demonstrators. Later they raised the Russian flag near Dnipropetrovsk City Council.

NGOs, some political parties and activists of Maydan create National Defence Centre of Dnipropetrovsk region and take under control Regional State Administration because of disengagement local authorities. Zelenyi Svit also came to this Centre.

2 March

After the Russian parliament approved the deployment of more soldiers to the Crimean peninsula, Andriy Parubiy, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, announced Sunday that the Ukrainian defence ministry had orders to assemble all soldiers.

In Dnipropetrovsk more than 10 thousand of people are gathered near the buildings of Dnipropetrovsk regional council and Dnipropetrovsk regional administration on national assemble (“Viche”) to declare protest against separatism and Russian military intervention in Crimea.

Ihor Kolomoyskyi (famous businessman, owner of business group “Privat”) was nominated as the chair of Dnipropetrovsk regional administration. Dnipropetrovsk assemble supported this nomination.

3 March

The biggest broadcasting company in Crimea – ‘Chermonorskaya’ – went off the air because of the threats to its employees. After its switching off the only broadcasting company which keeps working is Crimea State broadcaster, which is controlled by illegitimate self elected government of Sergei Aksenov.

In Crimea, the Russian military blocked the work of the military units in Novoozernoe, Perevalnoye and Feodosia. Ukrainian troops blocked in Feodosiya refuse to give up to the Russians and forswear

Donetsk Regional Council announced a referendum on joining the Russian Federation.

Viktor Yanukovich appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to use Russia’s armed forces on the territory of Ukraine, stated Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin during an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.

Condemning Russia’s intrusion into Ukraine, G7 countries have decided to halt their participation in preparations of the scheduled G8 summit in Sochi in June.

New Chair of Dnipropetrovsk regional administration, Ihor Kolomoyskyi came to Dnipropetrovsk, meet with activists of the National Defence Centre of Dnipropetrovsk region and said thanks all active people who don’t let destabilize situation in Dnipropetrovsk.